Chris McKimmie, Me, Teddy, Allen & Unwin, March 2016, 32pp, $29.99 (hbk) ISBN 9781760291334
Some adults chat to little children from above, others squat down at their level to engage in mutually rewarding face-to-face conversation. It is easy to envisage Chris McKimmie in the latter camp for his picture books uniquely take the reader down to the child’s level; from there we happily perceive the world through their developing perception, where discrete parts eventually coalesce into a whole understanding of a place and time. It is a journey through little circumstances of great moment upon the map of the narrator’s life.
Here it is the story of Teddy, the McKimmie family pet, patently a much-loved member of the family who grew from ‘a little tiny puppy with a boofy head and big brown melty eyes to a big black labrador’. Teddy tells his story in the inimitable McKimmie style.
The first impression of a McKimmie picture book is the sheer vivacity and playfulness of it, a wonderful invitation to jump in and roam around the mixed media pictures and the scraps of text pasted randomly among the drawings, the bits of collage, the painted scenes, the coloured papers and the dynamic lettering. You can almost hear the ambient sounds of children at play, household sounds, someone calling out for Teddy and the happy panting of a pet content in the familiar confusion of domestic life.
Teddy begins by recalling ‘pigging out on the chocolate mud cake’ at a family birthday then proceeds, spread-by-spread, to relate other highlights of his life and routine such as chewing up a friend’s prized sandal among other bits and pieces, understanding human words and even spelling like ‘w-a-l-k-i-e-s’, sensing the tantalizing aromas along the neighbourhood restaurant strip, dreaming twitchy dreams, rueing his humans’ weekends away and rejoicing at their return. Such is Teddy’s life, such is Teddy. We can’t all have him, but the book will do very nicely indeed.
Reviewed by Kevin Steinberger